by Adam Dunsby, Easton First Selectman
Here are some things I think we will see in Easton in 2018.
The mill rate will be reduced. Last year’s budget process was chaotic because of Governor Malloy’s proposal to shift a portion of teachers’ pensions from the state to the towns. The proposed charge to Easton was $1.3 million (our budget is a bit over $40 million). The state budget process dragged on through October, and, not knowing what would become law, Easton’s Board of Finance decided to set the mill rate assuming the governor’s proposal would mostly be implemented. Ultimately, the legislature did not implement the proposal to shift the cost of teachers’ pensions, so the town over-taxed. Members of the Board of Finance have made it clear they intend to reduce taxes and return this money to the taxpayers.
Central Easton will get cell service. The center of town—including our schools—does not have reliable cell service. That will change in early 2018. A tower is being erected near the animal shelter and Verizon should have its antenna in operation by March. Easton will be safer and residents will enjoy a step forward in communication technology.
The Solar array behind SSES will be expanded. Two years ago the town installed a solar array behind Samuel Staples Elementary School that provides about half the school’s electricity. We are in the process of expanding the array to the north and may be able squeeze in enough panels so that 100% of the school’s electricity comes from solar. All Easton residents should be proud that we are doing our part to promote clean energy.
One of the South Park bridges will be replaced. Two of the bridges on South Park Avenue need to be replaced. The one near Riverside Drive, which is only open to one lane of traffic, will be replaced in the summer of 2018. The bridge near Buck Hill Road will be replaced in the summer of 2019. The bridges cost about $1.5 million each. We have been awarded most, but not all, of the money through various state grants. If the state reneges on its commitment, now a possibility due to the state’s financial position, we will need to re-evaluate how we are going to pay for them.
Also . . . We could see the completion of the addition to the library to accommodate an expanded children’s section. Several groups in town are thinking about how to promote Easton, and we can look forward to seeing their results. I hope to continue moving forward on a plan to construct a restroom facility by the Morehouse fields. Financial considerations have slowed this down, but I am hopeful we can get it back on track.
A couple of things that probably won’t happen. I don’t expect anything to happen with the South Park property in 2018. While I believe town government should fulfill its commitment to taxpayers to recover their money, as they were promised would happen before they voted to buy it, The New England Prayer Center did not exercise its option to purchase and no other project has yet to convince the Board of Selectmen or the town. The Board of Selectman does not want to take any action in the short term that may prevent the town from a better use in the future.
I also don’t think a bus depot will be built behind SSES in 2018. A while back the Board of Education asked the Board of Selectmen to construct a bus depot for the district’s busses. Enthusiasm for this project was muted, but at the time the BOE was facing the loss of their current space, and the Board of Selectmen was convinced of the project’s necessity. As time has gone on, however, the Board of Education has been able to extend its current lease, and it appears the Easton and Redding Boards of Education are pursuing other options.
One of the best things about Easton is how committed we all are to improving our town. So I am sure we will see much, much more than listed above. Happy New Year!